PASOS marks 10-year anniversary: Ten years after founding, think-tank network ‘as relevant as ever’

September 15, 2014
Members of the first PASOS Board gather for a meal in Prague on December 16, 2004.

Members of the first PASOS Board gather for a meal in Prague on December 16, 2004.

In June 2004, a group of think-tank experts gathered in Moldova to start a new network for their organizations. This week, the network these experts founded — the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) — is marking its 10-year anniversary.

PASOS has grown from the initial 23 members of the Related Centres Network (RCN) to 57 think tanks across Europe and Central Asia, where it continues to work on its mission of ‘strengthening policy centres to make open society work.’

“Ten years on, PASOS is as relevant as ever,” said Andrew Cartwright, chair of the PASOS Board of Directors. “Being able to offer new ideas, new ways forward and to hold authorities to account remain vital actions, especially in environments where opposition is harassed or denounced as unpatriotic.”

“By maintaining strong, supportive ties across so many countries in the former Soviet sphere, PASOS is an ongoing means for professional and practical solidarity,” said Cartwright, who is a Research Fellow with the Center for Policy Studies-Central European University, one of the founding members of PASOS.

Members of the RCN decided to create PASOS as a means to increase their collaborative effectiveness at regional information sharing, joint project formulation and implementation, and internal capacity building. The founding meeting of PASOS took place on June 18, 2004, in Chisinau, Moldova. PASOS was registered under Czech law on September 16, 2004, marking the legal birth of the network. Initial funding was provided by the now-defunct Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative (LGI) of the Open Society Institute (OSI).

In May 2009, an Advisory Council for PASOS was created. The members of the council are George Soros, the founder and Chairman of OSI, Erhard Busek, former Vice-Chancellor of Austria and Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and Johannes Linn, Executive Director of the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution and former World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia.

Soros had been a panelist at “Fostering Philanthropy in Europe’s New Democracies,” a 2007 PASOS conference in Prague. “The activities of think-tanks benefit not only society but also the financial giver, who is exposed to information needs, and they help public discourse,” Soros said at the event.

Over the years, PASOS has organized international conferences, training seminars, published books and policy briefs, issued public statements, founded a think-tank awards program, and organized numerous projects, all with the aim of helping its members’ efforts at influencing policymakers in transitional countries to support democratic values.

Jeff Lovitt, executive director of PASOS since 2005, identified three PASOS campaigns as particularly noteworthy in that regard:

  • PASOS’s ground-breaking projects working for visa-free relations with the EU. Five members of the network worked together under the PASOS project “Monitoring Western Balkans progress in fulfilling EU roadmaps for visa-free travel,” which directly influenced the decision of EU leaders to adopt visa liberalization for the Western Balkans in 2010. Six PASOS members then worked together – along with partners from the Western Balkans – on the PASOS 2010-2012 project “Paving the road towards visa-free travel between the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU.” In April 2014, Moldova became the first of the eastern neighbors to achieve visa-free relations with the EU after the PASOS member, IDIS Viitorul, made the issue as a priority for the Moldovan government. This builds on PASOS’s efforts to ensure that a roadmap for Moldova’s European integration was formulated and realized after the re-run parliamentary elections of 2009.
  • The efforts of PASOS in becoming a voice for democratization and for analysis on democracy assistance efforts – not least the PASOS study into the democracy assistance policies of new EU member-states, resulting in a range of policy briefs and publications that contributed to changes in the policies of the new donors. This included Democracy’s New Champions: European Democracy Assistance After EU Enlargement.
  • The emergence of PASOS as one of the most important and influential civil-society networks in the Eastern Partnership countries, taking a leadership role on strategy and directions of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.

Much remains to be done in the region, Lovitt noted, and PASOS will be there to help its members produce the best public-policy work they can.

“Looking forward, I can say with confidence that PASOS will continue to strengthen independent think-tanks to ensure the lessons of transition are understood,” he said. “PASOS and its members have been and will continue to be leaders in promoting democracy and human rights, good governance and open economies, sustainable development and international cooperation.”

The following timeline highlights some of the most important events in the history of the PASOS network.


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